Small-Firm Care. Large-Firm Experience & Power.

Experienced Counsel For Clients In East Tennessee Seeking Custody Or Visitation

Grandparents can play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, from giving unconditional love and support to providing daily care while the parents work outside the home. But when parents divorce, or when one or both parents die, designated caregivers often deny the children continued access to these valuable relationships. At Shepherd & Long, we help grandparents pursue visitation rights and even full custody when warranted for the safety and best interest of a child. Contact us in Maryville to talk about your needs.

Maintaining Regular Contact With Your Grandchildren

A divorce agreement includes detailed requirements to ensure a noncustodial parent has regular access to his or her children. But particularly after a bitter divorce, a custodial parent may attempt to punish an ex-spouse by preventing his or her parents from spending time with the children. When you cannot convince a custodial parent that the children need this important relationship to help maintain normalcy in their lives, you can pursue the visitation rights afforded under the law.

The law says that grandparents may seek visitation rights, and may be entitled to a hearing “if such grandparent visitation is opposed by the custodial parent or parents or custodian or if the grandparent visitation has been severely reduced by the custodial parent or parents or custodian:

  • The father or mother of an unmarried minor child is deceased;
  • The child’s father or mother are divorced, legally separated, or were never married to each other;
  • The child’s father or mother has been missing for not less than six (6) months;
  • The court of another state has ordered grandparent visitation;
  • The child resided in the home of the grandparent for a period of twelve (12) months or more and was subsequently removed from the home by the parent, parents, or custodian (this grandparent-grandchild relationship establishes a rebuttable presumption that denial of visitation may result in irreparable harm to the child); or
  • The child and the grandparent maintained a significant existing relationship for a period of twelve (12) months or more immediately preceding severance or severe reduction of the relationship, this relationship was severed or severely reduced by the parent, parents, or custodian for reasons other than abuse or presence of a danger of substantial harm to the child, and severance or severe reduction of this relationship is likely to occasion substantial emotional harm to the child.”

Understand that the primary concern of the court is the best interest of the child. Therefore, the judge will first look to see if the child is at any risk of danger in the company of the grandparents. Next, the judge will determine if the child is at risk of any danger from being denied access to the grandparents. Finally, the judge will determine if there truly is a significant existing relationship, and how visitation (or lack thereof) will affect that.

In short, if your grandchild is worse off without you in his or her life, you are likely to be granted visitation rights.

Can I pursue full custody of my grandchildren?

Even if both parents die, grandparents aren’t guaranteed custody. If the parents have established an estate plan or named a guardian, then those wishes will be upheld barring any risk of danger to the child. If there is no guardian, or if you believe your grandchildren are being abused or neglected, then you can pursue full custody. These cases, however, require detailed documentation, such as the following:

  • Evidence of abuse or other dangerous situations within the current family home
  • Proof that the custodial parent or caregiver does not provide adequate supervision or neglects the children
  • A past history of successfully providing custodial care for your grandchildren over a continuous period

Experienced child custody attorneys can help guide grandparents through the complex legal process to obtain full custody of their grandchildren.

My grandchildren were adopted by another family. Do I have any rights?

Sadly, no: an adoption will end whatever legal right you had to visitation, unless there is language in the adoption agreement that says you can still be a part of their lives. If this is a concern for you, though, you may want to consider adopting your grandchildren yourself. We can discuss this option and what it would mean during a consultation.

Seek Support From An Experienced Grandparents’ Custody Lawyers Serving East Tennessee

Consistency is a vital component in ensuring the best adjustment of children after the loss of a parent through divorce or death. More than ever, children need the comfort of their close relationships with the grandparents they have known since birth. When someone prevents you from continuing to see your grandchildren regularly, or if you need to seek full custody, Shepherd & Long can help. For more information, or to schedule a consultation at our office in Maryville, call 865-383-3118 or fill out our contact form.